Heart on the Line is finally available for purchase. The third story in the Ladies of Harper’s Station features our shy yet she-carried-a-derringer-in-her-handbag heroine Grace Mallory who has been using Harper’s Station as a refuge to hide from the man who killed her father.
Now when it came time to find the perfect hero for Grace, inspiration came from a source close to home.
The romance genre in general is dominated by alpha-male heroes. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good alpha, but this time around, I wanted to switch things up a bit and remind readers that sweet, caring guys can be swoon-worthy too. Maybe it ties in to the fact that my own hero in real life is a glasses-wearing, bike-riding, computer nerd. His passionate love for me and our family, his devotion to God, his kind demeanor, and his dry sense of humor make him my ideal man. So when I started crafting Amos Bledsoe, Grace’s “online” suitor (on the telegraph line), I followed the same pattern. As a telegraph operator, Amos is a 19th century technology nerd. He prefers bicycles to horses. He wears spectacles. He’s smart, kind, funny, and sacrifices himself for those he loves without regret. A true hero in every sense of the word.
Here’s a excerpt that shows them courting over the wire before they ever meet in person:
It was him. Mr. A. She’d recognize his quick touch at the key anywhere. So crisp and precise. A metronome couldn’t create spaces any more rhythmic. She’d long admired his deft hand at the key. Setting her tea on the table, Grace slid into her office chair, a giddy tickle in her stomach despite her best efforts to maintain a sense of detachment.
Yes, Station Dn. I’m here.
Excellent! I worried I had waited too long to call. Dinner at my sister’s took longer than expected.
I hope you didn’t rush away on my account, Grace tapped.
I was eager to escape. Believe me.
What dastardly plague did they set upon you? Grace grinned to herself as she tapped out the words. Mr. A always seemed to have a humorous story to tell about his family, his life so wonderfully normal that whenever she listened to him, she managed to forget all about danger and unseen foes. For a few blessed minutes, she was simply a girl talking to a young man, no worries in sight.
I dare not tell you, for fear of spreading the contagion. It seems to strike the women around me with alarming regularity.
Intrigued, Grace leaned forward. Surely the distance between us will serve as adequate protection.
My mother and sister have both been afflicted for some time, I’m sorry to say, but tonight their symptoms worsened.
That sounds dire, indeed. Did you call a physician?
No point. There is only one cure to their ailment. And apparently I am the one who must distribute the healing dose.
Then you should do so at once, Grace replied, grinning as she reached for her tea. Mr. A never failed to entertain.
I would, of course, he said, but I find the key ingredient in the required elixir to be frustratingly elusive.
Can you not simply visit a druggist?
I’m afraid not. You see, the item I must find in order to cure this plague of interference is . . . a wife.
The tea Grace had just sipped spewed from her mouth to splatter over the table in front of her. Coughs spasmed in her throat.
A strange fluttery sensation danced through her belly. So, he wasn’t married. Why did that particular piece of knowledge please her so well? Her hand trembled as she reached for the key. She had to make some kind of response to that. But what exactly should she say?
I’m sure they only have your best interests at heart.
They do. But a twenty-eight year-old man doesn’t really want his personal life dictated by his female relations.
Twenty-eight. A man in his prime. A man who was suddenly sharing more personal details with her than he ever had before.
Grace dabbed at the spilled tea with a handkerchief fetched from her skirt pocket, her mind spinning. Was he fishing for details in return? She wanted to reciprocate. It was what a friend would do. Yet she couldn’t afford to say too much.
I can’t claim as many years of experience dealing with meddling relations as you can, but a couple friends of mine have recently decided that marriage is not without its advantages. Thankfully, they have as yet avoided seeing me as a matchmaking prospect.
Grace yanked her hand from the telegraph key and made a fist, her heart pumping in a wild rhythm. Details cloaked in vagueness. Would he understand what she’d just revealed? The wire remained silent for an eternally long moment.
Count your blessings, he finally sent, his usually metronome-like precision stuttering slightly. Perhaps we could meet sometime to commiserate. I would—
Clear the line, a brash staccato tapping interrupted. I need to break in. This is an emergency.
Grace nearly jumped from her chair at the pounding intrusion. It exploded across the wire like cannon fire in a still forest.
Proceed, came the answer from Mr. A. Immediate. Meticulous. All hint of personal vulnerability gone.
Grace replied in kind, though she feared her touch on the key had yet to reassert its professional tone.
Hs. Dv station has a message to relay. Are you on the wire?
A message from the Denver station? Grace shivered even as she lurched forward to answer. Yes. This is Hs station. G on the wire. Go ahead.
Message relayed from R as follows: He knows where you are. Coming for you. Sorry.
Everything in Grace stilled. Numbness spread from her mind to her limbs and finally to her heart. Her day of reckoning had arrived. Chaucer Haversham had found her.
- What characteristics does your ideal man embody?
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